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COVID restriction demonstrations planned for Sarnia, Woodstock and St. Thomas

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More demonstrations against COVID-19 restrictions are planned for across Southwestern Ontario after a rally that drew about 2,000 people to Aylmer Saturday.

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Similar marches and motorcades are scheduled this week in Woodstock, Sarnia and St. Thomas.

The Line Canada, a self-described civil rights group that organized motorcades from Mississauga and London to the Aylmer protest, plans rallies on Wednesday and Saturday in Sarnia and Saturday in St. Thomas.

“We’re growing in popularity with the information that we’ve been disseminating throughout the province and the country,” Line Canada executive director George Roche said Monday. “We’ve got all kinds of people wanting to become involved with the Line and . . . the delivery of the message to their own area.”

The group opposes restrictions imposed to slow the spread of the virus, and questions the science behind public health decisions.

“It doesn’t matter where you are in the country. Everybody is experiencing the same encroachment, the same violations, the same attitudinal and behavioural responses to them exercising their rights,” Roche said.

An unrelated demonstration is planned for Sunday in Woodstock, where Church of God Pastor Henry Hildebrandt is a guest speaker.

Hildebrandt, who frequently speaks at the Line Canada’s weekly rallies in Toronto’s Yonge-Dundas Square, was the closing speaker at the Aylmer demonstration.

Demonstrators were supposed to stay on sidewalks and a single lane of the road Saturday, but they took over Talbot Street, forcing the road to close for nearly an hour, said police, who estimated the crowd at between 1,700 to 2,000.

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Two fights were reported, including one involving a counter-protester and a reporter for the Rebel News Network. No one was injured and both incidents are under investigation, police said.

“Fortunately, cool heads prevailed.” Aylmer police Chief Zvonko Horvat said.

Aylmer Mayor Mary French imposed a state of emergency ahead of the rally and the region’s top public health official, Dr. Joyce Locke, urged people not to gather.

Additional OPP and Aylmer police were called in on overtime.

Roche said his organization always gives local police notice for their demonstrations.

“You have to have police co-ordination,” he said. “It’s always better to say, ‘Here’s what we’re doing and why.’”

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